TEN YEARS AFTER Part 2

Hi, well here we are again with another little reminisce about how we started our journey towards  self sufficiency and eco living. The first part was all about getting the outer shell of the building up and weather proofing.

Once this was done, it was time to try and make it into a house before it could become a home. Basically first we needed running water instead of using buckets, and once there was a proper roof, it made things a lot easier to collect rain water that ran off and into a 1000 litre tank that was placed on blocks underneath the guttering. This gave us enough pressure to fill the toilet cistern and caravan sinks.

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TEN YEARS AFTER

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. More

THERE’S MORE AT THE DOOR.

Hello and welcome to ‘The Willows’ and a big welcome to all our new Twitter followers.

Even though we have a very well insulated house with the floors, walls and roof all having 4 inches of insulation, there are always little problems with the wind through the side door especially when the wind blows from the east. All of the windows have insulation tape/draught excluder, so no draughts there, but the doors were difficult to sort out. Another problem was that all of our coats, boots, etc.  were hung up in the kitchen and when they got wet ( and knowing where we live, that’s often !), and were drying, it made the kitchen steam up and the floor wet meaning more heat was needed.

So, I solved this by building something so simple and easy, that has been used for exactly these reasons for hundreds of years, a porch.

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It was built onto a raised floor to stop damp, and the window was recycled from an old property.

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It was stained with a water based stain and then with linseed oil to waterproof it. The re cycled door and window are now ready for a lick of paint.

The difference it has made is amazing, no more draughts and all of our wet clothing hangs in there so no more dripping all over the kitchen floor, this has also given us more room in the kitchen and we’re not tripping up over boots !

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I decided to put this old door in so that we can fetch fuel/wood for the range or start the generator from inside the porch without getting wet, especially once the tin roof has been extended!

Obviously the porch itself has a few draughts, but once the coats etc have stopped dripping, they can come in for a nice warm and a dry but they have to go back out there. There’s a place for everything and everything in it’s place, as my Grandma used to say . And I bet yours did too !

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It would be virtually impossible to stop every draught but as long as they are only small I think they actually help with some ventilation.

So now the house needs less heating, less heating means less waste and so less of a carbon footprint, and so less money needed to be spent.

We would like to supply all of our own fuel here at ‘The Willows’, and we are trying as we have already planted lots of trees over the years,( too many to count,) and most of the willow has been woven into fedges ( I will post more about the fedges in a later blog). Each willow will produce hundreds of rods that can be mulched into briquettes for fuel. Some people say that willow isn’t good for the fire as it has a high water content, but we dried some out for a year and it burnt well, very well, but making a compact briquette makes it burn slower, but with a good heat.

So we’re off now to plant more trees that include Oak ,Beech, Birch, Alder and of course Willow for our Samhain celebration.

HAPPY SAMHAIN !

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Enjoy.

ALL HANDS ON DECK.

Hello and welcome to all our new followers ( and of course our long time followers !), and thankyou for all the nice comments you have all sent. We do hope that you all find us helpful, informative and entertaining!

At the start of this project 7 years ago, the summer weather was absolutely fantastic. It was really hot and very sunny and we felt like we were on a permanent holiday! We had a 35 foot caravan and a dream, so we started to build the extension onto the side of the caravan. We were playing Spanish music on our little CD player and having fun together, it almost felt like we were making our own telly programme, we called it ‘House Builders In The Sun !’ One time I was making the roof and 2 Red Kites were swooping overhead, we took this to be a good omen. But as ever the weather changed ( we were still having fun !) but at the end of the day this was still just grazing land and with all the rain it started to get really boggy and just down right muddy. Ok we didn’t have any carpets to mess up ( we still don’t), but it all became hard work, slipping and sliding around the areas around the house, something had to be done to make things easier. So I decided to put wooden pallets down, that I recycled from a local business ( with their permission of course)  to make a decking and walkway, and it really did work, but as always there’s another but, after awhile they started to rot and break so we kept on replacing them but these also rotted and in the end we got fed up of trying to tip toe around the place to avoid the holes and broken ankles. So once again something had to be done, hence now our proper decking and walkway.

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As you can see instead of just making a static decking, I built it all in 1 metre square sections.

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Each section can be moved or changed at any time either because of damage, or knowing us, we just want to change the pattern. Because we can…… and probably will! Why move house when you can just change how it looks?

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The last pallet being ripped up, thank goodness ! I had to use a spade,crow bar and sheer brute force !

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The sections going down.

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The walkway down the side of the house past the herb garden.

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What a view. The decking’s not bad either !

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The whole decking and walkway is now really nice to walk on without fear of slipping or breaking something ( like a pint glass !)

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And in case you were wondering what happened to all the old faithful pallets, well they will make perfect bonfire material for our Samhain  festival, seeing as we’ve invited bigmunkeyman and his mates to hold his bigmunkeyman’s bigmonster movie mashup !

I’m sure he will have a tale to tell at www. bigmunkeyman.wordpress.com

By the way I’d like to say Happy 30th Birthday to my sister TIGGER !

LET’S JUST SHELF IT, SHALL WE ?

We’ve gone a bit mad lately what with preserving produce and making wine and beer and because half of our house is a caravan, space has suddenly become a problem. A caravan has limited space with small rooms and we’ve been wanting to extend our bedroom, which was connected to the original bathroom, and this bathroom was being used as a store room, and we were just throwing everything in there, and it got to the stage where we couldn’t even get in there without smash,clank clank ! Something had to be done.  Now, this room is north facing and is quite cool,dark and dry, so it would be perfect for a larder to store all of our produce,preserves, wine etc. After ripping out the old fittings, I decided to use half of the remaining space and use the other half to extend the bedroom. This would make an area for the larder of 6.6 feet high, 3.5 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

The finished larder.

A double door will be fitted in the next few days and we will tile the walls and shelves to make it extra cold. Also, there is a vent in the floor so air can circulate.

There’s more at the door ! We are just keeping the babies warm and at this rate I’ll be building an extension !! Think I overfilled the demis, oh well, that means more in the glass then !

Enjoy.

ONE YEAR ON

Hello everyone, yes, this is our one year blog and we can’t really believe it ourselves !

We really hope that you’ve found all of the information helpful and maybe slightly entertaining. As we’ve said before, all we wanted to do was to show that it’s possible to build your own wooden house and live a sustainable life, growing your own food, preserving that food for the winter months and most importantly make your own wine from your garden produce. It’s just about the whole package of ‘The Willows’.

For us it always has to be about moving on. One problem that I found myself was that once the kitchen was completed, I had nowhere to make and repair things, so I had to do it all outside and this is never easy because of all the rain. It was also very difficult if I had to fix the jeep on the driveway in the rain ( well I never actually fixed the jeep in the kitchen anyway!), so the best thing to do was to build a workshop/garage. This would also give me a place to work and start making my own kilowatt turbine over the winter months.

Once I’d hired a digger for the week to put in the foundation stone it was time to start building. The base measures 18′ wide,24′ long.

Frame up, all levelled and the panels going on.

This is the concrete base in the middle to bear the weight of vehicles ( all mixed in a wheelbarrow by hand !) The windows on the left came from a house down the lane that was being renovated. We rescued 5 windows in all, as they would’ve just been smashed up and burnt ! Why? They are perfect windows.

I decided to alternate corrugated iron sheets with clear-plex on the roof as this will give as much natural light as possible, because we don’t have electricity to burn !

Well, what do you expect? It may be raining but this is ‘The Willows’, let’s have a barbi.

The finished product ! These doors were also salvaged from the same house down the lane. There are 4 doors, joined in pairs to fold back, and above the doors, 2 boards are on hinges to fold inwards to give an entrance of nine feet. The doors will be painted a nice dark green soon.

I would like to take this opportunity and give  congratulations to the retirement of my work boots. They have been loyal, hardworking and always turned up for work! I’d like to wish them all the best in their future hobby of horticulture, as they are going to become geranium pots.( Recycling !)

Enjoy.

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.

BUILDING A DREAM AN ALTERNATIVE WAY CONTINUED

This is only going to be a small page because all I wanted to do was finish off the last bit of the main structure building. The last post was getting too long !!.

This was the insulation , boards, and corrugated sheets going onto the caravan side and also the extention side.This tied both sides together.

Finishing touches.. Once this was done, and with the shiplap going all the way round, it now just looks like  one solid structure ( well, it is ).

You can still see the caravan side here, but it shows you how you tie the two together.

All tied up.. This is also a sneak preview of our water system ( well, part of it )!

The herb patch.. This was made by Permaculture, using paper and grass mulch..  See ..  www. arignagardner.wordpress.com  if u want to know more about it, Bridgit writes a really nice piece on Permaculture.. My wife did this part, and on that note we will now go over to my lovely wife for the next post… Enjoy.

BUILDING A DREAM AN ALTERNATIVE WAY.

” You can’t do that!”

” It’ll never work!”

” Why do you want to do that?”

These are some of the things that were said to us, well……

2 people + 1 million obstacles, 1000 doubters + 1 love + 1 huge idea = The Willows, where our dreams have become reality.

A couple of our friends ( Andy + Bridget, arignagardener.wordpress.com)  took some photos of our place and put them onto their own blog site and had some really nice comments  back about them, so we thought that we would show how it all came about…This is not about a big slap on the back, its about  an alternative way of life, living an ordinary way..( Ish )!!!

This was the start, A 35 foot caravan. Once it was in place the extention was ready to go.

Oh, theres me again making the first cut.

The first part of the base going down.. We built the floor in 5 x 7 feet sections and nailed them all together.

The main frame work going up. We sat there with graph paper over and over until we were happy with where everything should be before starting.

The top of the structure, we made this the same way as the base and put uprights in to support it all.

A view of the roof of the extention. These were 8 x 4 foot boards.

Wind proofing !

Ship lap as the outer covering.

All the floor, walls and roof with 4 inches of insulation.

So, there we go with the first part of the main structure..In later pages we will go into the water, electricity and sewage systems… Enjoy..