Archive for May, 2012

Making lime putty

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I want to use lime for several applications in the big building – plaster, mortar, to mix with clay and wood shavings for insulation, and for limewash paints. And by lime I mean non-hydraulic lime, the traditional, breathable and flexible basis of mortar and plaster used from pre-Roman times right up to the Industrial Revolution. Not to be confused with hydraulic lime, which is not so very different from Portland cement (though see comments below).

Making lime mortar and plaster from quicklime (preferable to using hydrated lime), requires a bit of forward planning. Before you can do anything with it, you first have to make lime putty, then this needs time to sit and mature for as long as possible before use. Opinions seem to vary on how long the bare minimum should be – 2 months, 3 months, 4 months – and the Romans apparently forbade the use of lime putty less than 3 years old. But there’s no disagreement about the fact that the longer it matures, the better it gets, so I wanted to get started on making the putty as soon as possible so I could give it at least 4 months. I’m kicking myself I didn’t think of this a year ago, but that’s design-it-as-you-go building for you …

Empty quicklime bag



Friday, May 25th, 2012

Judging by the amount of developing fruit on the quinta’s fruit trees (except apples … not so many of them) this could be a bumper year for fruit. Over the last week, an incredible crop of sweet cherries has been ripening on the big tree that overhangs the smaller building. I harvested a bucketful and, between me and the mens, scoffed the lot. By the second bucketful I was finding that so much fruit acid was making my teeth very sensitive, so continuing to eat so many raw cherries no longer looked like a comfortable option. What to do with all the fruit?

Sweet cherries


Mega mulching

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

I thought the hay/straw mulch I used in the raised beds last year was just brilliant. It dramatically slowed water loss from the soil – summer watering was cut from a daily ritual to a weekly one – and it suppressed an enormous amount of weed growth. So this year, as the area under cultivation has spread, so (thanks to 12 bales I managed to secure at the back end of last year) has the straw.

Straw mulch on cultivation areas


More work on the back roof

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

With the sudden advent of summer, we’ve been moving rapidly ahead on the rear roof. Three days of solid work has seen

  • the roof lights installed
  • the two membranes laid
  • flashing around 8 of the 10 light frames completed (we ran out of flashing tape and none of the local builders merchants have any more in stock right now)
  • the finishing work done to close the gap at the rear gully
  • the last leg to support the purlins installed
  • the rear land drain laid
  • the gravel infill completed

PET soft drink bottle lights


Let there be light!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Welcome though it’s been, the last month of rain has brought work on the roof behind the main building to a standstill. Jonny was able to construct all the wooden boxes for the slightly unconventional lighting system, but without a rain-free day to fit them, he never got to oversee the completion of his roof before he had to return to the UK. So this one’s for you, mate! (And by the way, I still have your fleece, your gloves – 2 pairs, your …)

Today, the sun returned, and with a rain-free forecast in prospect, we stripped the temporary plastic covering off the roof and got to it.

Light box assembly line

The light box assembly line. Wooden frames and lids assembled and waiting on waterproofing


Again! Again!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

One was clearly not enough. There was the thought of them all being uprooted for firewood. Then an olive tree-shaped space presented itself. And then there were the logistics of fitting in other deliveries of building materials … So we went right back for another.

Olive tree number two before leaving home

Olive tree number two before leaving home. This is one I only narrowly rejected first time around