Apart from ‘Ten Years After ‘ being a favourite band of ours from the ’60’s and ’70’s, it’s also coming up to our 10th anniversary of owning our land here in Ireland, and leading us to try to set up, build and live a self-sustainable lifestyle on our own.

We didn’t actually do anything with the land for a couple of years after buying it because we weren’t really sure just what we wanted to do, but after a while everything started to come together, especially once we’d bought the 40ft mobile home, placed it on the land and stayed for a 2 week holiday in it. This was 8 years ago, a lot of hard work and some mind puzzling problems to overcome.

A lot of people seem to think that you have to live in a mud hut in order to live a self sustainable life, but it’s simply not true, as we hope our blogs have shown. We never actually set out to live as self-sufficiently as we do now, but things just kept leading this way and once you’ve gone so far it just seems silly to stop, instead we completely embraced it and saw just how far we could take it.

Well, right back at the beginning before we could even start to think about building, a few main problems had to be sorted, such as water and ‘somewhere to go!’ And so over the next few posts we are going to have a little reminisce of how it all began.


These 3 tanks ( which are now underground), flow into each other from the toilet and then the liquid flows from the last barrel into a series of small ponds, one after the other, which are surrounded by willow and reeds creating a reed bed system. The willow and reeds clean the water in the ponds and there is no smell. The main factor with a reed bed system is you never, ever, EVER use bleach down the toilet. Bleach destroys all of the enzymes that are needed  to break down the waste, and also destroys any good bacteria that are essential, thus causing a smell. We use Ecover and Steradent tablets to clean the toilet, but we aim to make our own product once the lemon trees start to produce their fruit.


We had to collect rain water off the roof of the caravan for our first very basic water supply, but 2006 was a very hot and dry summer!  This made things very difficult for us and I had to cheat a bit by putting 5 of these blue barrels onto the back of our battered up old Hi-Lux and fill them at a friend’s house. Thankfully this didn’t have to be for long though and it did help, although we still had to bucket the water into the house, at least we could fill the cistern and sinks.


All of the plans were designed and drawn by ourselves and based around some huge very old teak windows that someone was throwing out. We then had an idea of how we wanted the kitchen and dining area to be and so these 5ft x 3ft windows fitted in perfectly and we thought it was some great recycling.


Once the sides were on and the roof up it all seemed like it was going to be possible. The roofing felt was placed around the sides to prevent any drafts coming in. Shiplap wood was placed over this to weatherproof and 4″ of  insulation went into the walls, floors and roof to keep the house as warm and snug as possible.



From the floor going down to the ship lapped extension  took about 4 weeks, but it was still just a shell, so the caravan was our only means of cooking and washing. That first winter was very hard, what with the damp and cold, no heating apart from a small portable gas heater. Staying in a caravan in the summer is very different to living in one during the winter.

Anyway, we hope you’ve enjoyed this look back and further details about the building etc. can be found on ‘Building A Dream An Alternative Way’ and ‘Everybody Has To Go Somewhere’.( I don’t know why these won’t appear as a link, but they are in the archives)

Until next time, enjoy.



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. unionhomestead
    Sep 13, 2014 @ 01:23:45

    Thanks for sharing the beginning of your journey. We totally identify with the whole getting so far “it seems silly to stop”, although we still have a long long long way to go before we are anywhere close to where you guys are now. We have lots to learn…:)


  2. Willowarchway
    Sep 13, 2014 @ 12:57:00

    Sometimes things have got so difficult in the past that we were close to giving up, but we just stuck in there and it’s all worth while in the end. Look forward to reading about your journey also.


  3. wspines
    Sep 13, 2014 @ 13:37:27

    I am always inspired by your blogs and what you have accomplished. The willow pond is a great idea.


    • Willowarchway
      Sep 13, 2014 @ 13:44:29

      Wow, thank you. Willow grows so freely here especially with the damp ground, and it certainly absorbs a lot of the rain that we get here. It definitely helps with the reed bed system. Thank you for your lovely comment, we enjoy your posts also.


  4. RossMountney
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 08:04:13

    An inspirational blog – thanks so much for sharing, you will have inspired so many. x


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