Tag Archives: Volunteering

Bachelor life

17 May

I’m a temporary bachelor as Trish has gone to Nigeria to spend time with our friends Irene and Michael, who live there. Trish left on Monday – she was so excited and it was my pleasure to support her in getting all her papers and travel plans in order.

The day after she left I thought I’d struggle to find things to do. I’m pleased to say I’ve been busy ever since. When living as a couple, one has to compromise and share, naturally. Living on one’s own means I can pretty much do what I want when I want. So my present life has more of a natural rhythm to it and it’s a more efficient way of living – only for a short time, though!

One thing I have noticed is that despite saying to myself each night “I’ll have a lie in tomorrow” when the morning comes I’m up and rating to go at 7:30 am!

Another thing – I seem to be eating less food than I do when there are two of us. Perhaps it’s easier to cater for just one. I know I eat smaller quantities anyway after my gastric bypass, however, I do normally eat five times a day and my calorie intake is about 1,800 a day. These last few days I’ve gone down to three meals a day! My normal weight is now 110 kgs or 17 stone 4 lbs and over the winter this crept up a tad. So hopefully by the time Trish returns to Montolieu (28 May), I will be below my goal weight.

Today I am going to work this morning in the garden with Mareva and Nicolas (who live here). No doubt we will be ’assisted’ by Nettles as we weed the vegetable patch! Nettles in the gardenThen we will plant vegetable seeds and the potatoes. After lunch, I plan to continue the work removing the old window panes on the veranda of Irmtraud’s loft. It’s a noisy and tough job, as the windows are three storeys up and I can only work from the inside. Replacing windowsAlso, the putty is over 50 years old and is pretty much like concrete! I’m about to deploy the electric concrete chiseller! Later this evening I plan to pop into the village and eat a crepe cooked by our friends Veronique and José from their mobile creperie called Speedycrepe.

Tomorrow Louise and I plan to go to the seaside at Gruissan, to get some sun. So possibly a day off! Yippee!Gruissan harbour

It’s finally finished!

5 Sep

We don’t really believe it but the reed bed sewage system is finally finished. At the end of July we had a visit from the company who’d designed the system. They requested that we make a few changes to the layout of the vertical bed. This entailed moving the dispersers, raising the separator and reinforcing and raising the grill that stops people and animals from coming into contact with the effluent.

Trish, I and Dylan, a volunteer from Missoula, Montana, USA, worked during August to carry out the work. We also tried out two ways to cap the edge of the bed – roof tiles and stones. It was decided that the tiles looked nicer. We had a stock of old roof tiles in the old factory. The only problem was that to get to them we had to go under a huge beam supporting the floor above and this beam had broken in two!

So we then remembered seeing four new metal props which had been stored under the terrace of the Old House. Provenance unknown but they did the job. The beam can’t fall any further but will need specialist help to push it back into place and brace it.

Here is Dylan working in the sh*t!

We had to carry out a number of adjustments in order to meet the specifications of the system’s designer. Now these are finished, we are waiting for a visit from the SPANC (Le Service Publique d’Assainissement Non-Collectif). SPANC is the public body in France that controls the design and implementation of sewage treatment systems that are not connected to the public sewer. If they are satisfied then they will issue an approval notice which we can present to the Town Hall.

This has been a major project here. Over the last three years I have gained a lot of knowledge (perhaps too much knowledge!) on how sewage is treated. We looked into pumping stations which could deliver our waste up to the public system, which was 300 metres up our track, and 30 metres higher. This was discarded as too costly even though a sewage pipe had been installed under the track when the renovations were carried out some 15 years ago. We then investigated micro-systems, both above and underground, but the logistics of installing a large plastic structure were interesting and the running costs were also a factor, as the systems need electricity and emptying annually. It was finally decided to install a reed bed system (phytoépuration in French).Here is a shot of the finished system. I promise this is the last you’ll here about this subject for a while!

For us, it’s been a major project. Trish and I organised the work, most of which was carried out by a working party of 26 volunteers over six days at the end of April. They dug out the 25 tonnes of soil to make the lower bed, filled 500 sandbags to create the upper bed, laid the liners in each (three for each bed), installed the drainage pipes and vents, hand shovelled 42 tonnes of stones, gravel and sand into the two beds. This required a lot of coordination and arranging and fetching of supplies – all conducted in French.

Then over the next four months we procured hundreds of plants (some bought, some dug up from waterside locations and some propagated). All were planted by Trish and our volunteer Dylan, who is in his final year studying for a degree in ecology. Another team of volunteers, attending a six day course here on living NVC, demolished the old sewage pipes and installed the new delivery pipes and diverter system. Finally we built a protection grill to keep people and animals away from the effluent, mounted a capping of roof tiles, experimented with covering the sand bags in mud (work in progress here), and tweaked the layout of the delivery pipes and dispersers.

Finally I am pleased to report that the system is working! It coped with over 70 people who attended a 10 day course here in August. The water discharging into the river is clear and we now have an ecological and natural system for treating the sewage here at the Peace Factory.

If you want to know more about the NVC courses go to our website. If you’d like to know about volunteering here, go to our volunteer website.

Thanks for reading.

Last business visit to the UK

16 Mar

I’m waiting here at Stansted to board the Ryanair flight to Carcassonne and reflecting on the end of my business life. 

After running my own businesses since April 1982 I’ve decided to stop working for my two remaining UK clients. I think that travelling to and from the UK nearly every month for the last four years has taken a bit of a toll on my health. 

On the upside, I’ve managed to hone down my time travelling and on Tuesday night the plane landed at 6:45pm and I was driving my hire car away from Hertz at 7:25pm – a record!


So I won’t be traveling to the UK for business any more. Hooray!

And the greatest thing of all is that I can spend more time with Trish! I really love life here at the Peace Factory and meeting all the volunteers

Wish me luck!

Here are some photos from my trip. 

An update is on its way!

11 Feb

We are working on an update but it’s taking time. Since returning from the UK we’ve been busy.

Anyway, to sum up what we’ve been doing, here’s two photographic clues:

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What a difference a builder can make

14 Sep

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Thanks to Andy (a volunteer who is spending two months here at The Peace Factory) the steps leading up to the Little House have been repaired. We had been concerned about these for ages. Some steps had crumbled away and getting to and from the Little House was quite difficult, especially at night. Andy arrived and within a few days had started work. Fortunately we had a cement mixer, sand and cement still on site. It took him just three days to totally refurbish the steps. Andy is a professional builder from the UK, taking a two month sabbatical. But he has decided to do what he loves doing best – building!

Flushed with success, Andy then teamed up with Nadage, Alex, Sarah and Damien (four more volunteers) to completely re-work the garden between the factory and the Little House.

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Without volunteers, progress would be very slow here. In return for their labour, volunteers receive free accommodation in the Little House. This has six small bedrooms (single bed, table, light and cupboard), plus storage space for suitcases and other possessions. They share the kitchen, living room, bathroom and toilet. Living communally generates a great team spirit. And you get to learn about other people’s cultures (and languages).