Gathered Knowledge

Our Compost Loo

When we first arrived in the woods every poo needed its own hole, which took a lot of time, and could be awkward in desperate moments.

A compost loo was the best quick idea we could see to solve this problem, a big hole in which the rich nightsoil (we like that word) could break itself down, and harmlessly enrich the local earth.

First was the hole, which as we’ve mentioned, provided clay for the window-cobbing. Next, we placed 4 straw bales around the trench, and pegged them down with hurdle rods, so there could be no dreadful tumbling accidents. The bales also heightened the action position, meaning our hole did not have to be so deep.

Then a specially designed hurdle was made, with a hole in it.

compost loo wattle
Rejecting the Thomas Crapper method

This meant our loo was a squatting only contraption, which everyone knows is the only way to poo wholesomely. For guests who couldn’t handle this, there was a traditionally seated compost loo ten minutes walk away, at the other end of the wood.

compost loo
pleasant and delightful

Lastly, a hazel dome frame was dug in and woven over the top of the bales and hurdle, which was itself covered in canvas, to keep the our heads, and the composting deposits, dry.

What we dropped therein, we covered with either wood-ash, a useful double use for our regular stove clean-out. If wood-ash was short, then leaves sufficed. This helped with the breakdown.

We often wonder how people justify dispatching their poo with drinkable water, when there is such a shortage in this land, and in others. For one thing, water is expensive! And it is heavy. Having to carry our water only a quarter of a mile made us appreicate the daily duty of water.

Toilet paper was something we initially did without, but the regular guests in our winter home meant that this odd luxury was brought in, and often lingered after guests left. Certainly, the most local moss supplies ran low, and we were often glad of our toilet roll stash.

the best loo for miles
two log rounds to step up on

We can recommend heartily the act of compost-loo building, as an alternative to wasting gallons of good water a day. Every other living creature lets their excrement fall to earth, and we believe humans can do this too.

A film of house-building in the woods

This winter, we made all sorts of things from the wood around us. When we arrived, we had some rudimentary hand-tools, but nothing electric or powered. Good axes were brought from home, and a boot fair provided us with hand-drills and bits, an iron digging stick, a good shovel and a bow-saw, the best of available technologies.

us in zone

the finished job

Materials-wise, we were coppicing, so hazel rods were plentiful, and standards (timber trees) were also being felled, so ash and oak were available too. Everything but the roof of our house (which was of secondhand canvas) was made from immediate resources – except for parts which we liberated from the local tip. We prided ourselves on using no metal or plastic in it, until the perspex slabs were donated for window use. The breaking of resolve on this point meant that we did finish one window with 10 little metal tacks. It was 20 times quicker than carving hazel pegs ourselves, and by then we were really getting tired.

Rose and Ayla were driving forces in the ‘free-time-equals-craft-time’ paradigm, and we are well grateful for all they taught us this winter, in practical and motivational terms.

Here is a short video compilation of the house, as it pops up to nestle us. Please enjoy.

Press MORE to see more crafty details of the house, built from ideas, sweat and hazel.

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Carmarthen, and the people of Myrddin’s City

window scene

This is the story of meetings made while walking last year, on the oath to Saint Davids (Dewi Sant).

It takes place while Ed and Will were accompanied by Rose, and sees them arrive in Carmarthen, or Caerfyrddin, the City of Merlin.

It tells of Merlin and his Oak, of throwing axes, of Carmarthen Police Force, and of the most beautiful music we’ve ever witnessed in a pub folk-session.

gang

And it has interesting recordings too. So please press ‘more’, and read on…

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Sourdough, for better bread…

blessing bread

Using your Loaf

Have you ever noticed how, in the old stories, people throve on a diet of bread and water?

And have you ever met a culture where bread is still a fundamental part of the daily diet?

Bread was once known to be valuable in Britain, too. The very word proves it: bread-winner, your bread-and-butter, etc.

So how do we reconcile these ideas of bread, against its modern incarnation, the plastic bag of thick sliced white?

For bread, it seems, is not what it used to be.

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The Aquaduct of Dreams

more of the aquasong

Under the the Elan Aquaduct

Running from the Elan Valley to Birmingham, there is a waterway wrapped in stone.


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Our friend Ryan, in the Woods

Horde

gosh

Ryan Weston. A name that strikes fear into those who watch the Canterbury skies at night. Young women quiver in pale delight, when this monster comes scalloping round the lofty corner.

ryan-banjo

mr Ryan at ease

Ryan Weston. A pal to us all. When Ed and Will were midst dreadful turmoil this winter, while living in the woods, it was the visit of friends like Ryan who brought the simple smile back to our faces.

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Kate’s Middle English Verse

This verse was sent in to us, by a lovely person named Kate, who we have met only through this webbed medium.
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She has just gone to be a milkmaid in Ireland, we’re told, which seems an obvious choice for a young lady fresh from literary studies.
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The verse is written in middle English, Chaucer’s Tales language, and we like it lots.
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We’re promised it will “one day be a printed epic”, which sounds very good indeed.
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Here it is:

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Her on lond, a tale withoute lesinges:

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Thre folk of man wandringe geten livinge,

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Thre menes song singeth of haslewode,

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Hem wend awei – the best of al manne fode.

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Hem slepen al withouten hous or hom

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For liken hem in wildernesse to rom.

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Thank-you Kate. And if anyone wants more of the same or similar, let us know, and we’ll make the connections.