Week 4 at Cob Camp – Hard work and fun
Posted on 19 June 2011
This week started with Marco and Linda departing camp and Anita and Martin making a real effort to progress the project positively and constructively.
A real highlight of the week was when Laurence came to camp to give us an edible weeds tour of our area. She taught us how to identify what we could eat that was naturally growing around us and how we could eat it. She pointed out blackberries, wild sage, Jerusalem artichoke, daisies, yarrow, hog weed and more… here are some pictures…
Fitting in with this theme, Wayne decided to teach us all (in a humorous TV cooking show style!) how to make delicious elderflower cordial from some local elderflower trees. Here is his recipe:
- Pick 25-30 heads of fresh fragrant flowers (not starting to fruit, brown or bud) to make 2L of cordial
- Shake the flowers to remove insects
- Put the flowers in approximately 2L of boiling water and add the juice of ½ lemon
- Cover the pot with a lid and leave overnight to steep
- The next morning, add the juice of 8-10 lemons and strain the mixture through some muslin (or Wayne’s scarf whilst on cob camp with limited resources!)
- Return the strained liquid to a pot, add 1kg of sugar and bring to the boil until all the sugar is dissolved
- Et voila! Bottle the cordial and drink diluted in water for a delicious summer drink!
And here are some photos:
But to me, the major highlight of the week was Jean’s arrival at Cob Camp! After nearly a month working in Central America, he joined us for 10 days. He’s then taking over the writing of the post, to share with you his impressions about Cob Camp…
The first thing which struck me when I arrived at the Camp was that it was in the middle of nowhere – literally. Not only the department of La Creuse is little visited in France, but the ‘camp’ is actually a field, on which four horses graze. The ‘kitchen’ is a bunch of tables put together under a bunch of plastic sheeting, all found at the local déchetterie (waste reception centre). The ‘toilet’ is a latrine, which ‘chamber pot’ needs to be emptied every two days. The ‘shower’ is a plastic box with holes; and the water comes from a long pipe lying on the ground, so that, when it’s sunny, it warms up the water.
Life is then fairly rustic. But I love it! Being surrounded by green sceneries, interacting with the horses, hearing cows and birds and sheep constantly mooing, gazing and bleating in the background is a never ending source of pleasure. Although I had heard of last week’s tensions, I didn’t see anything of it – on the contrary, the group welcomed me warmly.
I was also very happy to – at last – get involved in the construction of a cob house. The idea of building your own house – with fun and without spending too much money – is a fascinating one. I’m a big fan of the book ‘The Barefoot Architect’, which I encourage you to read if you too are interested in building your own house… When I arrived, the foundations of the house had been made, the base of the walls built and a basic roof infrastructure set up. I then contributed in working further with the wood trunks which will eventually support the roof, for instance through making pegs for joins (see pictures below) and metal decorations for corners engraving.
The cobbing itself is more straining than I thought it would be, but hey, if you want a home to last, you’d better put the efforts! 🙂
Also, I accompanied the team a few times for some ‘bin-diving’ at night. As explained in an earlier post, it consists of retrieving the food that has been trashed by the supermarket during the day. Honestly, I can’t say whether I found the experience conclusive or not. The good thing about bin-diving is that you eat for free (even though Carly and I generally have strong reservations about supermarket food). Even more, the diversity and amount of stuff that is being discarded ensures that you never eat the same dish. The problem however is to realise the amount of food that is being thrown every day. It’s properly (and sadly) stunning – in particular if one considers that the food is actually perfectly edible. Indeed, according to a recent study conducted by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of all the food produced around the world, approximately 1.3 billion tons a year, is never eaten. That is, one-third of the global food supply is lost or thrown away. The report indicated that the food waste is roughly split between developed and developing countries, though it is important to recognize that rich countries account for a small portion of the world’s population yet an equal share of the waste – and most of this food is thrown away because consumers don’t want to buy it, or because, once purchased, they simply don’t eat it.
Anyway, life at Cob Camp is shared between the works on the cob house, discussions, cooking, and also laughter. Given that – for our pleasure – there is no TV, we are simply more creative at having fun…
An important thing to consider when you live on a field is the weather… Overall, the group was lucky to have sunny days and nights for most of the time. But when it rains, you evidently work less, but the good thing is that you spend more time reading, or discussing around the warm cob oven. We nevertheless had to face a couple of thunderstorms, and when it happens, you better attach all the tents and plastic sheeting solidly to the ground…
By the end of this week the entire group had decided to move on to other projects, festivals or back home. Anita and Martin will hopefully get a fresh group of people to pour their energy into the second half of the project, and Carly and I are looking forward to seeing how their project progresses. Now, I unfortunately have to go back to London for a couple of weeks, and Carly is moving to South of France to experience another project – more about it next week!