EVERYBODY HAS TO GO SOMEWHERE !

Well, once again we’re back, a little late this week because it was my birthday on Sunday!! I’ve recovered now so the rest of the livingroom floor has gone down and the other two LED lights are now illuminated, so not a bad week really. Also what a lovely HOT shower I’ve just had (we will go into the hot water system soon) so we can stay in the same room if you know what I mean! Obviously,as well as getting water to the cabin, it’s first main use was the toilet, we all have to go somewhere! Because of where and how we live we couldn’t just go on the mains supply, we didn’t want to anyway, that would just defeat the object of being off the grid and self sustainable.Anyway, somewhere along the way we heard about the reed/willow bed system where the water flushed from your toilet goes into tanks where it starts to break down immediately. This broken down sewerage then flows into a series of filtration ponds that have reeds and willows planted in and around them, and these in turn draw up the water for themselves and are also fertilised.

These are 250 litre barrels, each one connected to the other, and as each one fills it drains into the next. By the third barrel, sewerage is well broken down so just liquid then flows into the series of ponds. Because of the willow and reeds, as it flows from one pond to the next, it’s clean water by the last pond with good healthy trees as well! We have had frog spawn in our last pond! Now, isn’t that better than it all being pumped out to sea?

There is one major rule with this system…NO BLEACH !! Bleach kills everything,good or bad. If you put bleach down your toilet, the bacterial enzymes that break down the sewerage will be killed and so the sewerage will sit there in the tank and rot, causing the smell that everyone associates with septic tanks. Ours does not smell at all even in hot weather because it all breaks down naturally. One thing we do use for cleaning the toilet would be Steradent tablets as these have Sodium Bicarbonate in them, a natural cleaner! If they’re good enough for your dentures then they’re good enough for the toilet!!(Yes we do still have our own teeth!)

Another rule to remember with this system is no other household water (eg, Bath, Washing Machine, Kitchen sink, etc) should go into the tanks for two simple reasons. Firstly, it will contain chemicals of some sort that will affect the breakdown, and secondly, if too much water goes into the tanks then the whole system can get flushed through not allowing time for the natural breakdown.

These are some of the willows planted at the last pond. There are about 60 in total and more next to the other ponds.

Just because we live alternatively doesn’t mean we cant have a ‘normal’ bathroom.

Enjoy.

We would like to give a big ‘Willows’ thankyou to CeliaG at   Thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com  for the surprise award! We will treasure the acknowledgement !!

A Strange Thing Happened.

In the past few weeks we have been replanting some of our Alder trees, they have just gone mad in our middle field over the past few years and they are starting to smother each other. We put this down to either the donkeys fertilizing them or the ‘wee people’. When we first moved here we heard the locals talk of the wee people. The main part of this was that Folklore has it that you must NEVER remove, cut down or tamper in any way with the whitethorn (Hawthorn) tree, as the wee people will not be happy. If you ignore this piece of advice then bad luck will surely come your way! We have heard of major road developments being halted because a large whitethorn tree has been directly in the way and the road workers wouldn’t continue to work! Needless to say any whitethorn on our land stays well and truly put!

This is our largest whitethorn tree which we call ‘The Fairy Tree’.

Now, after reading the brilliant ‘Magic of Findhorn’ by Paul Hawke (which is an actual place on the N.E. coast of Scotland), we came to think that surely the wee people were ‘Nature Spirits’, and that by working with them and not against them is something that we should try to adhere to. So, when our Alder trees started to spread we decided to move them to a better place but they just wouldn’t budge! We decided to ask them if they would allow us to lift them and place them in a better spot. After a few days we returned to try again and they just seemed to release their roots without us having to pull and tug! This is the truth! Now they can hopefully be happy in their new place and grow into a nice big screening hedge for us.

Some of the Alder trees that were to be moved.

This all brings me round to a strange thing that happened. About 4 years ago we started to plant some Willow in a very boggy part of the land to not just help with drainage but to also coppice in the future. There was a whitethorn hedge that seemed to be in the way so LJ decided to ask the wee people if it would be alright to move the hedge and to be given some kind of sign if it was ok. He had a thought in his head that for some reason he had to make a fool of himself! At this point he heard a rumbling sound behind him and turned to see our donkey (who was about a year old and full of testosterone!) racing towards him like a steam train! LJ thought at this stage it might be a good idea to get the hell out of the way and fell face down in the bog! The donkey stopped,,,Lj swore he heard giggling,,, the wee people! He trudged back to the house and after I’d finished laughing he told me what had happened. As he was telling the story we both noticed that there was a perfect circle of blood on the kitchen floor. We checked both dogs, cats, ourselves and not a scratch on any of us! Heres to say we took this as a sign and they were not moved!!

E.

WATER,WATER EVERYWHERE.

AND IT’S ALL SPRING TO DRINK!

When we first moved here,as I’ve said before,( so if I’m repeating myself),we had nothing, not even a toilet because we had no water, so as you can imagine that was the main and first priority.The first system was very easy to set up but not really efficient enough,but at least we had running water,therefore a toilet, sink and bath.

It was just water off the roof into the guttering and flowed into a 1000 litre tank. Because this is only a single storey cabin, there was no pressure so we couldn’t use the shower or kitchen sink taps, but at least we had water, thats all we could keep saying to each other. Because of the electricity system it would have been too draining on the power to run a pump at 600 watts of power and so we had to put up with what we had.It worked well enough but soon the water started to turn ‘green’ from all the crap off the roof washing into the tank, so I had to keep cleaning out the tank and it took ages for it to fill back up!

This wasn’t going to work,and so I went for a walk around the land to have a think (as you do), and I heard water running. On closer inspection I found that we had a free flowing natural spring. I found a wide part in the stream that it caused,so I dug wider and lined it with some polythene that was left over from the polytunnels.(Recycling again!)

All dug out and filling up nicely with natural spring water.

From this point the water is piped down the hill using garden hospipes and plumbed into the stacked water tanks.

You should have seen E and myself getting all of these on top of each other,it was scary! Now we have full water pressure into the cabin so we can have decent showers,all under ‘Boyle’s Law’ that pressure is created by height and not volume.

Enjoy.

WHAT A LOAD OF OLD RUBBISH!

RECYCLE,RE-USE AND UTILISE.

No-one says that it has to be thrown away. Nothing is set in stone that this is the only way to do it. All of my life I have renovated things, cars, motorbikes and even an old colonial house in New Zealand. You can see the true beauty of the fact that ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ may be, does not have to decay or be thrown away.Everything has a lot longer life than advertising leads us to believe, and to reuse and utilise something in a different way to the way it was first intended is something I love.Not only does this save you money, it saves waste and more ‘stuff’ doesn’t have to be produced to replace something that didn’t need replacing in the first place! Here at ‘The Willows’ we have gardening tools that my Grandad gave to us that date back to 1960’s and there’s NOTHING WRONG with them! We have books about smallholdings from the ’70’s and these are very useful.

When we first moved to Ireland, we had just returned from N.Z. had a 1972 VW campervan (which we lived in for a while) and very little money. When we rented a house it was empty of furniture,,,hmm, no money,no furniture,what to do? I got a days work clearing an outhouse of ‘rubbish’ to be put in a skip. We ended up furnishing our house with this ‘rubbish’ that was to be just thrown away! There was absolutely nothing wrong with any of it! We used large cardboard boxes with throw sheets over for side tables to put your pint glass,,sorry, cup of tea on. Re-using and utilisation is great and gives us a good feeling.

An old glass light shade, I actually used  it for an ash tray!

‘E’ got the glass paints out and rejuvenated it. This is now in our living room with two L.E.D. lights inside as one of our main lights and is plugged into a twelve volt battery.It gives a lovely ‘jewelled’ effect!

These ‘beams’ are actually fence rails that were screwed into the ceiling to give the effect, (utilisation?!)

Wooden panelling in the kitchen. Each panel was cut to size from one 8’x4′ sheet of board. The dado rail is again a fence rail, and the skirting board was left over ‘shiplap’. All alot cheaper than manufactured panelling.

There are so many things that we have recycled, re-used and utilised to create our place.What great fun it is to do so.

Enjoy.

A VERY DIFFERENT JOURNEY

After a week we are back on the site. We’ve been working hard on the house and like we said before ‘The Willows’ is a continuous project. When we started with just the caravan, we had nothing here, no water,no power, no toilet, no heating, but we moved in anyway. Yes, I know we are mad, but we found that by doing it this way things got done because they had to be done, simple as that! When we found a problem we had to find a solution, it wasn’t like we could just shut the door and walk away at night, we had to live it. This is why we started this site to show people that a self-sustaining eco house could be built without spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, we did ours for just a few thousand over time. But please believe us, the house has been comfortable for about 4 and a half years(we started about 5 years ago). We did have a time of being REALLY cold, but now we have got to the stage of a few creature comforts.I know it probably sounds silly, but over the past week we have sorted out a proper living room as before it was just the original caravan furnishings, you know the sort of thing. Other things had to be sorted first, obviously the kitchen, bathroom, and garden for our vegetables. Well, this is now our living room and this is still the original caravan side.

Laying the new floor.

At last, a proper living room.

With the way our eco house( buzz word!) is, we soon worked out that we really didn’t have to go without anything, But we did have to re-think the way it is used. As with the electricity system, IT’S ONLY SMALL, but it didn’t cost too much, which is why we have a few different ways of utilizing it. Now, if people want to spend fifty grand, hey, It’s up to them, but we didn’t have that kind of money and even if we had, it would have been a waste of our needs…we are never without power anyway!

No need for ‘Grand Designs’, just ‘Grand Ideas!’

Enjoy.