I follow a blog by The Thrifty Campers – two brave souls heading out into the wilds to live – well – wild. Its a great site and full of humour. Go have a look and give support. Last month there was a great post about hand-washing. Yes when living out you still need clean clothes. We are the same. So I thought I would post some pictures.
Our little house, home for two years while we convert the barn, has no hot water, no toilet. It is a room downstairs that is now our temporary kitchen and sitting area, and upstairs, gained by an outside stairway, is the bedroom, come office, come shower room.
Freezing last year, we installed a shower and a small electric boiler. The boiler is great, it hangs on the wall and uses minimal electricity to heat about 18 litres of water – enough for a brisk shower. Washing in cold water is not fun in the winter and although I admire my grandmothers frugalness in boiling kettles for her bath, running up and down our outside stairs wasn’t practical.
In the heat of summer we showered outside using barrels of rain water sat in the sun to warm through. Actually liberating, standing stark naked with just the fields and cows. I felt like Eve before it all went pear-shaped!
But winter is a different matter and the neighbours said it could go minus 10, so the shower was survival. The toilet was a bucket for a year. I am sorry but being a girl isn’t easy on that front. The bucket target suddenly becomes very small and with trembling knees, going to the toilet should be made an Olympic sport! This year we bought a camping toilet. Joy I could sit down!
But back to washing. The rain here is heavy and fills a 50 litre barrel in no time, even through summer with the storms. We rigged up pipes from all the roves and netted over to catch leaves and the resulting water is cleaner I suspect that the mains. its a lot softer too. Left in barrels in the sun, the water heats to about 20 degrees in the Summer, hot enough for hand washing. Steep the clothes for a day in detergent [Eco-friendly brands only], then rinse and hang. The sun and fresh air finish the work and leave the washing fresh and soft.
I want a more heavyweight line – with more wires and as the sun so hot here in summer, its madness not to wash outside and save money too. I cant believe how long washing machines take to wash clothes and all this energy too has to be paid for. So we are taking advantage of the resources that are free to us. Our village isn’t on the mains either, like many in France. All our waste and water goes into fields lower than us, to be filtered by nature. Therefore we have no issues with using rainwater, as it will all go into the fields eventually. This week we asked our farming neighbour to heave out his grandmothers old washing trough – a heavy weight concrete affair with two deep sinks. We are going to rig this up with piping to a barrel, so we can catch all the washing water used for cleaning pots and garden tools and then use back in the garden.
And heating – a contentious issue for me. We had to install a wood burner as no ability with our finances to install a water boiler, plus pay the bills to EDF for the electricity. All the French in our area use wood. I find it very difficult agreeing to cutting down trees, but the locals do not bat an eyelid. So for now we have a couple of tonnes of cut wood drying in the garden. Long term we are not yet sure. Gas maybe as we can buy on the bottle and control the budget. From my days in London I just cannot go back to contracts with the big utility companies – a Russian roulette of charges we have no control over.
With winter being just round the corner we are a little concerned on how we shall manage. We are going to London for one month at the height of the cold, as the barn isn’t finished and this little house is not built with such thick walls, so we could freeze. We will push on with pointing inside and then once we return in January we maybe able to de-camp into the barn and get in a small gas heater. Mid March the spring arrives here swiftly and a mere month after it is warmer than many a British Summer, so its thick woolly socks, grandmothers knitted jumpers and scarves and putting a brave face on till then.